At this point in time, there are three kinds of people in the world: people that have managed to score themselves a copy of the elusive videogame/virtual gym Wii Fit, people that wouldn’t be caught dead touching the thing for fear that it may transform them into a relatively attractive woman, and those dwelling somewhere in-between. This review is for those in the later camp, the group which I imagine is the largest, as Wii Fit is still nearly impossible to find in the wild, and is therefore an experience many interested parties still haven’t been able to partake in.
I asked pro-Cblogger and all-around excellent writer Matthew “Cowzilla3” Razak, who has been charting his Wii Fit progress for months over at Thatvideogameblog.com, to chime in with his thoughts on the device. It didn’t seem wise to review the “game” until a few months had gone by since its release, as one of the many things Wii Fit attempts to do is become a part of your day-to-day life forever. All the reviews you may have seen for Wii Fit in the past are just the tip of the iceberg compared to this one, the only review done by two men who actually used it for long enough to know if Wii Fit works. Hit the jump for the results.
Wii Fit (Wii)
Published by Nintendo
Developed by Nintendo
Released on May 19th, 2008
To get it out of the way, yes, I lost weight, and no, it wasn’t all because of Wii Fit. Wii Fit simply got me moving and active again, and it also got me thinking about how eating a big hamburger everyday might not be the healthiest thing for my body. It is plainly and simply a motivational tool, and it worked for me. As an exercise machine, Wii Fit and the balance board are lacking at best, but as a part of a workout (and an excuse to buy the balance board), it does its job quite well. How does it do this? Let’s take a look.
Firstly, the overall feel of the game is incredibly in sync with the rest of the Wii Insert Name Here games. Simple to get into, and full of quirky Mii uses and anthropomorphic balance boards. The latter was a little creepy at first, but then slowly grew on me. Outside of that, there are two personal trainers, one male and one female, who take you through all the serious exercises. I personally liked that it wasn’t your Mii who went through the Yoga and Physical Exercises with you, as the personal trainers in those made it clear that these were exercises, while the Aerobic stuff and games were more for fun. Still, Nintendo could have given the trainers some pigmentation and possibly made them look a little better graphically. I know they’re going for simple here, but the bland colors of the workout room and trainer’s clothing just don’t go over well. Also, I’m pretty sure the male trainer is gay and hitting on me, which is flattering but a little strange within the context of the game.
Of course the graphics are supposed to be simple so as not to scare away the casual crowd, who has irrational fears of details and shadowing. The gameplay, and we’ll use that term loosely, is just as simple. The menus are beyond easy to understand and operate, and the charts that keep track of everything you do are so simple that my Nintendog could understand them. You can have multiple players with profiles in the game, though co-workouts are limited to running, and, much like Brain Age, the game will compare them to each and ask each player questions about how they’re doing. Aside from this, all that’s really featured are the daily balance test and the exercises.
All you really have to do with the game is weigh yourself every day. Nothing else is counted or judged, other than your daily weight and balance test. The amount you exercise is recorded, but it doesn’t seem to affect what the game does with you. I have a few problems with this, the least of which is the fact that the game basically demands players weigh themselves daily — which is not healthy physically or mentally. It’s great to keep track of one’s weight, but doing it on a daily basis, no matter who you are, is demoralizing. I would have much rather had it ask me to weigh myself every three days or so; that way I’d be keeping track, but the daily fluctuations in weight wouldn’t have made Wii Fit be so disappointed with me.
The second problem is that because of the fact that a player’s Wii Fit Points amount to even less than Accomplishments do, and don’t change the play of the game, there isn’t any change once the player gets in better shape. If I am working out daily and telling Wii Fit I am doing so, I want it to recognize that I did this and tell me how to improve upon it. This brings up my biggest qualm with the game. There is absolutely no guidance in how to put together a workout. It’s just a bunch of random exercises that are explained decently well and then thrown at you like scraps of paper in the wind. If I wanted something that was meant to be experienced in any random order I would have reread Catch-22 or popped Memento in.
Those random exercises and games are deceptively fun to do, however. I said that Wii Fit wasn’t a great workout on its own, and it isn’t, but you can get a really solid core workout from the game by doing the yoga stretches and physical fitness workouts. The really good thing about doing these is that you stay slow and controlled because you have to follow the trainer’s form. One of the hardest parts of doing a workout right is not rushing through it because you’re getting tired, and Wii Fit basically demands that you don’t do this, since you have to follow the trainer or you don’t get credit. There are some really challenging exercises in there, too. The push-ups and bridges will kick anybody’s ass and lunges are always great for a leg workout. The exercises are just a bunch of basic exercises, and if you do them it’s not going to make you less in-shape; all I can say to that fact is that if it makes you exercise, then it can’t be bad.
As for the actual games packed in, and I’m lumping the aerobic exercises in here since no one would seriously call them exercise, they’re all perfectly wonderful tech demos of what the balance board can do. They work and that’s what they’re supposed to do, so eleven out of ten in that department. Would I have liked more depth to them? Of course, but that’s why we’re getting fully fleshed-out snowboarding and skiing games, right? I will point out two more prominent mini-games, though. The boxing game can actually be a workout if you put effort into it, and it should be fleshed out into an awesome rhythm game starring the Elite Beat Agents, since it’s all based on how you punch and step to the beat. Meditation also stands out because of the utter absurdity of it all. They really want gamers to sit on the pad and zone out while staring at their television? This was the only game or exercise that I did where the thought, “You know what? I can do this outside far better,” really popped into my head. Well, that and the stupid running simulation.
The actual motivating factor behind Wii Fit is those daily weigh-ins that I was complaining about before. As far as a scale, the balance board works really well, and my center of balance was never off enough that it was really bothersome. I never had any problems with the balance board miscalculating or misjudging what I was doing. The hardware part of Wii Fit works like a charm, and unlike the Wiimote, I don’t see Nintendo having to improve anything with it. As for the balance tests that are supposed to determine your fitness, they’re a bunch of crap. My Wii Fit Age would drastically fluctuate from 55 to 23 in the matter of a day just because I was better at one test than another. It’s really not the best system.
So, yes, Wii Fit does have its problems, but it’s also the first game of its kind, so I’m inclined to cut Nintendo some slack here and there. If they know what’s good for them they’ll be releasing another Wii Fit with the plethora of kinks ironed out and a bit more structure to the exercises. Then again, why fix something if it’s selling really well, right, Nintendo?
Matt has given me very little left to say, as I agree with him on just about all the points he touched on, but there is one more thing about Wii Fit that I think you should know. Wii Fit is the only game I’ve ever played that knew I was going to get sick of, and I made a contingency plan for just such an event. This alone makes the game like nothing else I’ve ever played, and is the sole reason I’m still using it all these months after launch.
How does Wii Fit manage this feat? By going where no game has gone before: it asks you to stop looking at it. You can look in the mirror, you can watch TV, or you can even play a different videogame, and all the while still be using Wii Fit.
What the hell am I talking about, you ask? Let me explain. One of the final unlockable aerobic activities in Wii Fit is an incredibly simple step “game” that basically consists of you stepping on and off the balance board for twenty minutes as the Wii remote microphone plays a metronome “click track” to keep your steps on the beat. If you make the most of it and turn your steps into lunges, you will get a workout from this, no matter how fit you already are. From there, you can actually set your TV to receive a signal from another source (cable, DVD player, alternate gaming platform) while you continue your Wii Fit workout. All you need is the Wii to remain on, and it will send out the metronome signal to the Wii Remote, and take a signal in from the balance board about how you’re steppin’. At that point, your TV is officially an optional part of the experience.
This feature has single-handedly changed the way I play videogames. Every non-Wii, current-gen home console game I’m into right now (an admittedly short list of Castle Crashers, Bionic Commando Rearmed, and The Last Guy) has changed from a sedentary, calorie-storing experience into a light-impact, fat-busting workout. I just start up Wii Fit, select the step aerobic game, switch the input over to my 360, start up Castle Crashers, and let the fatass-melting/teddy bear-decapitating festivities begin.
The only way this mode could have been better is if it actually provided its own game to play while you’re doing the step aerobics non-game. I shouldn’t have to switch to Castle Crashers to fully enjoy Wii Fit; Wii Fit should provide me with both gaming and exercise. That’s where the title falls short in general — on the whole, it doesn’t integrate exercise and gaming as well as I’d hoped it would. All the exercises that may potentially get me in better shape, like push-ups and leg lifts, are of the decidedly non-game variety, while the always-fun skiing, snowboarding, and ball drop games require no strength or cardiovascular-building movement to play.
No one would disagree with the fact that there is plenty of room for improvement for future Wii Fit titles, which are sure to be in development. A more structured workout plan, better integration between the games and the exercises, and better rewards for achievements in those games and exercises, are all things that would make Wii Fit 2 a much more compelling experience than its predecessor.
However, a videogame review shouldn’t be based on what isn’t included in a game, but instead on what is, and everything in Wii Fit is polished, effective, and fun. Though I can’t imagine it being anyone’s all-time favorite game (unless you only enjoy videogames you play with your feet), I also can’t imagine anyone not enjoying it, either. Perhaps more importantly, the thing works. I’ve lost about 20 lbs since I started playing Wii Fit, both due to the exercise it demands and the increased consciousness about your body that it provides. That’s more than I ever lost at the gym, and at a fraction of the price.